Thursday, February 4, 2010

Haibane Renmei~A Review

"To To recognize one's own sin is to have no sin. So, are you a sinner?"
-The Communicator
"But if I think I have no sin, then I become a sinner! "-Rakka
"Perhaps this is what it means to be bound by sin. To spin in the same circle, looking for where the sin lies, and at some point losing sight of the way out." -The Communicator

Haibane Renmei (灰羽連盟 lit. Ash Feather Federation) is a hypnotic story first drawn by Japanese author Yoshitoshi ABe. This is a 13 episode anime that follows the main character, Rakka as she finds herself in the world of Glie. I first picked up this show almost 7 years ago and has always been one of my favorites.
Rakka finds herself in Glie after dreaming of falling. It is a mysterious town, surrounded by an uncrossable wall. There are humans, regular residents of Glie. As well as Haibane, people with halos and wings. Rakka becomes a Haibane and soon learns that unlike humans, who dwell and live and die with Glie, Haibane eventually leave Glie. This "day of flight" is the most important thing a Haibane can obtain. The only people who can go past the Glie wall is the Toga, a group of hooded people who speak with hand symbols. The only person who can speak to the Toga is the Communicator, who is also the spiritual leader of the Haibane.
Ultimately this is a story of redemption, self realization, and forgiveness. This short show really asks a lot of questions with few answers. After watching interviews with the author I have found that he wanted the audience to find their own answers. This show is slow moving and not at all an action film! It relies heavily on dialog, art, and music to carry its themes. I won't spoil anything here! This show comes highly recommended and I hope you all get a chance to watch it! I prefer the Japanese audio to the English, simply because of the less corny voices.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Snow Flower & the Secret Fan~A Review

"I write to you. Please listen to me. Though I am poor and improper, though I am not worthy of your family's high gate, I write today to say it was fated that we join. Your words fill my heart. We are a pair of mandarin ducks. We are a bridge over the river. People everywhere will envy our good match. Yes, my heart is true to go with you."
I have always had a great liking for historical fiction. And a great interest in China. So this would almost be a hands down must read for me. This novel starts out with two girls, Lily and Snow Flower. Both of whom must go through the rigors of foot binding. They go on to be "laotong", translated by the author to be "old sames". Basically, friends who communicate in the secret language of women in ancient china called "nu shu". This book is written through the eyes of Lily in her final days. It follows her path through life, having her feet bound, learning nu shu, getting married, and having children. The very beginning of this book is the most interesting. Mostly because I had never researched the practice of foot binding. The author really does a good job describing the practice. The book goes on to describe Lily's life and how her foot binding and laotong have changed her chances at a better life.
This novel fell short in many ways for me. I knew it was a short novel, but I was expecting more substance. There really isn't much essence to the story. The main plot is about the friendship of Lily and Snow Flower, but I felt cheated out of knowing more about their daily lives. We know what their husbands do for a living, what their Mother-in-Law's general mood is, but that is about it. Really this could have been a meatier novel. There are also instances of heartache, loss, and death. I felt like all instances are glanced over. I do understand that many more people would die in these times. But I felt the characters fell flat in this way. With the death of a son, a sister, a daughter, wouldn't these mothers be more distraught? Also, I felt that Lily's hubris and falling out with Lily was heavy handed. I felt for Lily and was surprised at the deathbed confession of caring. I do not feel like Lily overcame her feelings of doubt and animosity.
Despite these downfalls, this still stands in my eyes as an interesting novel about the struggle of women. I do find the study of nu shu, foot binding and the idea of laotong to be very interesting. I myself feel like I have a laotong. The version of this book pictured above also includes writings from the author on why she wrote it as well as a section of discussion topics. If you are looking for an interesting, but short book club novel, make sure to pick this one up!

Guest Writer~tonight we bloom

This week author is tonight we bloom I really enjoyed the following poem from them on fictionpress.

I have yet to understand

contemplate willows-
hieroglyphic secrets on
ochre skin like thoughts my egyptian
hands can read and branches story-clad
from ere the time fireflies crooned in sanskrit.
and I have yet to understand
how they wear their emotions so lovely,
skulls turned inside-out for nature to
read and feelings contoured onto
boughs that cry when the
moon kills
the sun
forest sets ablaze.

This poem originally caught my eye because of its interesting formatting. I Really liked the poem for its imagery. It also has a very equal ending and beginning, both mentioning trees/forests. I have yet to create a poetry in the form of what I'm writing about and this poem really makes an interesting one! My favorite description in this was the "hieroglyphic secrets on ocher skin like thoughts my egyptian
hands can read and branches story-clad". Also from this author I really enjoyed Butterfly Boy. Please continue to write and good luck!